Fiona Gao, Human Resources Manager – China, plays a vital role for Beam Suntory China, where we’ve set a Yatte Minahare ambition to reach $1 billion in sales by 2030.
Born and raised in China, Fiona lived in Shenyang and Shanghai before attending SIM Global Education in Singapore, where she was able to take courses from the London School of Economics remotely. She felt economics could strengthen her ability to think logically and understand problems from a macro and micro perspective.
After school, Fiona joined Grant Thornton in 2007 as an internal auditor and worked closely with human resources.
“My personality helped draw my interest to HR,” said Fiona. “I like talking to people and I find it easy for me to get along with others.”
Fiona joined Suntory Food & Beverage (SBFA) in 2012. She then transitioned to Suntory Holdings in China to take on a role in HR. Following the acquisition of Beam and Suntory, she transitioned to her current role at Beam Suntory.
In her current role, Fiona is a champion for Growing for Good. She is leading a year-long CSR program to protect underground water in inner Mongolia, by supporting the farming of millet, which is a sustainable grain.
“The program helps support a Millet Planting Program to preserve underground water in the desert area of Inner Mongolia and the millet yield from this project will then be donated to the elderly and children in need in Shanghai,” said Fiona.
When the millet was ready to harvest, Fiona organized an employee volunteering event in Inner Mongolia to understand the process of planting and harvesting millet, as well as to deliver donation of millet and held activities with the local disadvantage groups in Shanghai communities.
Fiona also played an integral role in establishing Beam Suntory China.
“Our route-to-market launch in 2017 was a yearlong process for Beam Suntory China,” said Fiona. “My primary responsibility was to help our employees’ transition to the new business as smoothly as possible. I also helped lead recruiting, hiring and development efforts for new employees.”
Beam Suntory China started with 35 employees. With the help of Fiona’s experience and expertise, we now have 106 team members. Additionally, since the integration of the Japan and China regions, Fiona has shared the work she does for China with the Japan office, which does not have a Beam Suntory HR employee.
“I really enjoy talent acquisition and development. It makes my role feel very meaningful and valuable to the organization.”
And the China team seems to agree!
In 2019, Beam Suntory China was named a “Best Workplace,” winning three awards by Great Place to Work®. Employee engagement surveys have consistently scored at or above 93 percent the past three years; two surveys were conducted internally, each scoring 93 percent. This year, Beam Suntory China participated in The Great Place to Work, and they conducted the survey for the office, scoring 94 percent.
Outside of work, Fiona’s interests mostly include travel. Among the places she has visited, she especially enjoyed visiting Boston for its architecture and many universities, including Harvard and MIT. She also likes to watch movies, her favorites being “Terminal” and “Up In the Air.”